In previous posts I’ve described why I don’t believe in mission strategy and looked at mission planning in the book of Acts. Here is the third implication I want to highlight of my conclusion that God – and not us – is the great mission strategist. The first two were a humble confidence in God’s sovereignty and a clear vision for mission.
3. A liberating culture in the church
Put together A humble confidence in God’s sovereignty and A clear vision for mission and what have you got? A liberating culture in the church.
— Because you’re not confined by a plan, people are free to respond to opportunities.
— Because you have a clear vision, people know how to response to opportunities.
In The Crowded House we says there are three strands to mission:
What this means is people know what they are about. They don’t need to be told how to respond to particular situations. They know they’re trying to build relationships with people. They know they’re looking for opportunities to share the gospel. They know they’re look for opportunities to introduce people to the Christian community.
People know what to do in new situations because they have imbibed the values.
This means people are free to get on with mission without permission. We need a culture in our churches where you don’t need permission for mission! People know the end goal and they know the values so they can adapt to each new opportunity.
What does this mean for leadership?
1. Leadership is about creating an ethos of mission
Give people a vision for mission. Teach people the values so they know how to go about it. And then set them free. Tell them: ‘You don’t need my permission to do mission.’ Encourage people to follow their passions. Encourage people to innovate.
2. Leadership is about organising the chaos that results!
Look at Acts 11:19-26. Without the apostles’ permission, or even knowledge, people dispersed by the Holy Spirit tell the good news about Jesus. So the apostles send Barnabas. Barnabas sees what is going on and encourages it. He gets stuck in. He goes with the flow. He begins to organise it. He gets extra resources in the shape of Paul. He ensures it is faithful to gospel.
We want people to be working together not just shooting off and doing our own thing. Mission is not about self-indulgence. There will be people who make sacrifices. So part of the role of the church leaders is look at the opportunities opening up and bring people together to meet those opportunities.
So sometimes you’ll say to people, ‘I know you’re working away with this group, but there are some great opportunities opening up over here so please would you put your energies to helping them?’ Or you might say, ‘Will you work with us to reach this unreached community?’ We’ve done that many times. People coming to work with middle-class British people being asked to work with Chinese students. People befriending their work colleagues being asked to move to a working-class neighbourhood. Catching up with what God is doing.